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How free is a free holiday?

March 7th, 2006

My wife got a phone call today (from 01268 555095), saying that because she had answered a questionnaire in Bolton, she had won first prize in a draw – a seven night luxury 5-star holiday to a European resort (Costa del Sol, Canary Islands, Portugal or the Balearics) in a ‘luxury’ self-catering apartment, flights included, but insurance would be required and there was also a GBP 34.50 admin fee payable per person on booking. The vouchers would also be valid for 18 months. Hmmm… since when does a 5-star holiday involve self-catering?

Being skeptical, she asked what the catch was, but was told “no catch”. “Isn’t this timeshare?”, “No it’s not timeshare”, a point that while truthful is not actually good – see later. All she had to do was ring GVC Travel on 0871 222 8028 quoting a reference number.

On calling this number (which according to saynoto0870.com routes through to another 01268 number – are we getting the picture yet?), she was told that we would both have to collect the documents in person from their ‘Manchester Exhibition Centre’ and bring ID, because they could not send them out in the post. At this exhibition centre there would be a presentation on what is available. Hang on, doesn’t this sound like timeshare?

Now the last time I booked a holiday, the tickets were posted to me. It wasn’t a problem, yet this company are claiming it’s not safe to post a voucher! Methinks the ID is required for signing a contract. And why do we both have to go to collect the voucher? Is it really that heavy, or is it to get us both there to be sold something else?

Also, if we’ve won first prize, surely we’re the only one to win first prize, but a presentation suggests several people would be there. They can’t all have won first prize!

I decided to do some digging on the internet (these companies must hate the internet) and found that although it isn’t technically a timeshare, it is a holiday membership club sold through pressure-selling presentations. It also appears that if you do sit through the hard sell and get your vouchers, then the accommodation is far from 5-star, the dates are restricted unless you pay for the flights which are then more expensive than you could arrange yourself.

Take a look at holidaywatchdog.com, Crimeshare.net, this post on scoobynet and an interesting post from someone claiming to be an employee of GVC (username secretagent):

…we phone people who take part in family lifestyle surveys in town centres, some of which date back to 2000. They don’t take no for an answer either which means calling the same person over and over. I actually was told myself today by a “customer” that it was a con and that she had looked it up, so i did some searching myself and have found out that it is conning people into timeshare!!! I work there and they never even told me and when i asked them they said “no!” So be careful people as they don’t even tell there [sic] staff that it is just one big con.

You can also see that the 01268 555095 number belongs to GVC, meaning that the original call came from GVC themselves – clearly a bid to create the illusion that the original caller was separate to GVC.

We’re not into beach holidays anyway. I don’t think we’ll bother going to collect our ‘prize’.

There is an interesting article on the Citizens’ Advice Bureau site, calling on the DTI to get tough on Holiday Clubs. Some interesting extracts:

People are ending up with holidays that cost far more than they would on the high street, that’s if they can book anything at all.

Companies offer prizes to get people to attend presentations, where pressure-selling techniques are used to push them in to buying holiday club membership. People are assured that it is not timeshare – it isn’t and this leaves them with less legal protection.

A CAB in south London gave advice to a couple who joined a holiday club and wanted to cancel after 24 hours. They had received phone calls and letters from a company saying they had won a ‘free’ holiday and inviting them to a presentation at a hotel in Croydon. They eventually decided to go, after being assured by the company that it was not about timeshare. They were pushed in to joining for £750 and paying a £100 deposit on the spot. As soon as they got home they wanted to cancel, because of the death of a family member abroad. The holiday club said it was not possible, as they had no cooling off period or cancellation rights.

They also offer some good advice:

If you win a prize or holiday which you need to attend a presentation to collect, be wary. Don’t try to claim it unless you want to spend several hours at a high pressure sales pitch for holiday clubs

Don’t be reassured by sales reps promising that it is not timeshare. You have far less legal protection if you are buying holiday club membership

Find out about extra costs before claiming your ‘free’ holiday – they often cost more than a high-street holiday, but offer less choice over dates and destinations.

Office of Fair Trading - You have not won a free luxury holidayI have also found a leaflet on the Office of Fair Trading Website entitled: Congratulations, you have not won a free luxury holiday

I think one of the most important points from both of these consumer sites is this: Because of the timeshare scams a few years ago, the law was tightened to give more protection, but punters have a long memory and for most people timeshare still equates to scam. GVC proudly state that this is not timeshare and although they appear to be telling the truth, what they fail to point out is that you are therefore not protected by these timeshare regulations.

I have also found an excellent article on The Guardian’s website by a couple of journalists who went along to one of these presentations. This is well worth a read.

Search Engine Hits

It is interesting to note the number of hits I get on this post where people have searched for the 01268 555095 and 0871 222 8028 numbers (see table below) People obviously get the initial call, are suspicious and turn to the internet to check.

01268 555095 
0871 222 8028
01268 555095 
0871 222 2566
January 07

It would also appear from comments I am receiving that GVC have changed their name to Choose Travel (or are just using a different name) and are using a new number: 0871 222 2566. I’m also getting loads of hits for ‘choose travel, 0871, holiday scam’

UPDATE: 12th February 2007

It’s almost a year since I made this post, and I was simply recounting my experience with what we were told and my research at the time. Since then I have been surprised by the response I have received, both as comments and the continuing number of search engine hits for the telephone numbers, ‘timeshare’, ‘scam’, ‘questionnaire’ etc. – an obvious measure of the general public’s suspicions when receiving such a phone call.

UPDATE: 31st May 2007

Other numbers which now seem to be quoted include: 01268 498330 and 0800 4585625. The company name also seems to have changed again, this time to CLC (Club La Costa).

2minutedraw.com‘ is also being quoted by the initial ‘market researcher’.

You may also like to read this article on the Guardian website.

Categories: Misc Tags: ,
  1. Paul
    October 21st, 2009 at 12:27 | #1
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 8.0 on Windows Windows XP

    Keep up the good work, just been called by 01558557600 to call the 0800 number, thanks for the heads up on these SCAMMERS

  2. Dirk
    October 27th, 2009 at 19:01 | #2
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 8.0 on Windows Windows Vista

    I’ve taken advantage of these holiday clubs on a number of occasions. There’s no ‘scam’ you just say ‘no’. I usually tell them from the start I’m here for the free vouchers and holiday, they accept your honesty and saves them wasting their time going through the sales pitch.

    I’ve been on on CLC holiday this year, again told the sales guy from the start I wasn’t interested and he said fair enough. Had the breakfast, should us a couple of places to visit and some local knowledge and away we went.

    Just had the call sending through a voucher for £590 towards a holiday, once get the details through then consider if I use it.

    My ex in-laws are members of a holidat club but they purchased years ago, i’ve been to vegas, florida and a number of other places using the points ‘system’, it just doesn’t work for everyone.

    Before anyone asks, I don’t work for any of these companies (though I’ve heard the speech that many times, I reckon I could sell it for a living)

  3. Marta
    December 21st, 2009 at 15:55 | #3
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 8.0 on Windows Windows XP

    On the beginning of this year I had a phone call from these people and I went for a presentation to Stratford upon Avon. I didn’t sign any document but I had my £50.00 voucher and holiday for about £100.00 for 2 people (inc. lovely apartment & flights). We had lovely 8 days holiday in Spain for £100.00. We only had 1 day with one of the Club La Costa representative who was trying to persuade to sign a memebership with CLC but we hardly said NO and that’s it really.

  4. Carol
    January 8th, 2010 at 18:21 | #4
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 8.0 on Windows Windows Vista

    My husband has had a number of calls from this company and when I spoke to the and asked if it was a timeshare – the woman protested it was not. Anyway not realising at that stage it was a scam my husband had arrange for us to go along to a presentation. We were told we must be homeowner – but we’re not and he told them and they said it would be fine – alarm bells started ringing very loudly at this stage and that we would not be able to take our son.

    Anyway the paper work and the “free” holiday was now going to cost us £39.50 each – more alarm bells. Anyway they have been ringing every day now for at least 3 weeks checking we are still going.

    GUESS WHAT – after reading this website and the guardian article – we are not going to go anywhere near them and next time they call – I will ask them to remove our details from the database and report them to the OFT. Wish my stupid husband had seen the website first.

  5. Naz
    January 20th, 2010 at 20:50 | #5
    Using Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox 3.5.7 on Windows Windows Vista

    Got a call today from a guy saying I’d won a holiday. Phone number didn’t show up on my mobile. The guy asked if I was married and owned my own house. He then gave me a reference number and told me to call 08009889904. Called the number and got through to ‘Debbie’. She tells me I need to attend a presentation in Tottenmham Court Road. I arranged a time to go. Googled the number out of curiosity, and came to this website. Thanks everyone.

  6. B
    March 16th, 2010 at 17:09 | #6
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows Windows XP

    My wife got a missed call from 01268557600. A quick google shows they are a shameless persistent pushy shower of scammers. Luckilly, my wife didn’t answer, and has no intention of answering if they call again.

    I’ve read that they won’t hang up if there is noise in the background, so why not tell them to “hang on a minute”, then leave the phone beside a TV or radio. That should turn the tables on them and run up THEIR phone bills.

  7. Nicola
    March 30th, 2010 at 16:40 | #7
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 8.0 on Windows Windows Vista

    This company are driving me mad, first they constantly rang my home phone, now they seem to have got hold of my mobile and are constantly ringing me on that. I have even put them on my reject list of numbers, but they still get manage to get through, they are driving me mad.

  8. Chloe
    May 7th, 2010 at 08:22 | #8
    Using Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 6.0 on Windows Windows XP

    reading this i used to work for the company most of you all need your hearing tested never once do we say YOU HAVE WON A HOILDAY we say you have been awarded the hoilday then we ask you a few questions most of the time your hearing wants to hear what you want try listening next time you get a phone call. really cant stand people that make stupid web sites up such as this. really must have a sad life bless you 🙂

  9. May 7th, 2010 at 08:50 | #9
    Using Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox 3.6.3 on Windows Windows XP


    Are you really calling my wife (and all these other people) a liar? How can you be sure that she (and the other commenters here) spoke to you and not one of your colleagues. There are also comments from other ex-employees who disagree with you.

    Let’s however, play along and change won to awarded. That would change the words “Won first prize in a draw” to “awarded first prize in a draw” – What’s the difference? It’s still false. There was no draw, many haven’t even completed any questionnaire mentioned. If there was a real draw you would not have to attend a ‘presentation’ to collect the vouchers, the Citizens Advice Bureau would not be issuing advice against this sort of pressure selling and the DTI would not be issuing leaflets warning against holiday clubs. Sad? Sad is thinking that making these phone calls is a worthwhile job. Read the rest of the comments Chloe – people don’t want these phone calls.

    If the product is so damn good, advertise it and people will make their own decision. Don’t try and dress it up as an award.

    Finally, why do people think I’ve ‘set up a website’ just for this? This was just a single blog post four years ago (out of currently 300+), or maybe these people don’t understand how websites and blogs work. The fact that people are still find this post through search engines (over 400 hits in April 2010 alone) shows their distrust of this type of selling, however, since this now has over 300 comments and the original post is over four years old, I am closing comments.

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